Media linguistics investigates the relationship between language use and public discourse conveyed through the media. In this context, we regard language use as an interface between cognitive and social (specific to culture, domain, institution or organisation) communication practices – in other words, as a window to people and their communities.
We create and disseminate knowledge and methods for analysing and optimising products, processes and contexts of public discourse. In doing so, we analyse, among other things, how social media are changing communication and how these media can be utilised effectively in journalism and organisations.
We are positioned in the scientific field of applied linguistics through national and international research projects as well as through our strong engagement in research policy and management. This is accomplished, for example, through leadership positions in the International Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) and the AILA Research Network in Media Linguistics.
In the fields of journalism and organisational communication, we offer research-based academic programmes and continuing education courses as well as consulting. Our spectrum includes training and coaching sessions as well as organisational development projects in which we collaborate with industry partners in breaking free from the shackles of fossilised routines and further developing repertoires of text and meaning production.
In brief: The Writing Helix
When journalists and organisational communication professionals write, they change the world and the manner in which people perceive it. Media linguistics takes an empirical approach in documenting how this is done. Here is a description of how we, as researchers, go about this:
Using ethnographic field approaches, we collect and transcribe data. We analyse editorial office mission statements and corporate wording using document analysis and engage in situation analysis through participant observation of exactly what people do at their places of employment and while travelling. We create ethnographies using guided interviews and document every keystroke and mouse click. We record follow-up discourse, such as editorial meetings or consulting sessions.
One outcome of our research is the Medialinguistic Mindset, an empirically-driven, practice-based conceptualisation of what professional communicators know about communication and of how they utilise communication processes, including media messages, video clips or blog posts, to achieve their objectives.
The Writing Helix is closely connected to the Medialinguistic Mindset model. It illustrates the areas of activity in which professional text production occurs and how these areas of activity interact. It reveals that experienced professionals generally write differently than novices, and it outlines what precisely novices can learn from them. It also demonstrates to what extent individuals, teams, organisations and society as a whole engage in reciprocal exchange in situations of professional text production. Setting an objective, mapping out the writing process, controlling the flow of writing and making sure the objective is reached by a set deadline does not transpire in a linear fashion. These writing activities overlap or collide and are recursive.
This research feeds into coaching, training and organisational consulting in a practical fashion. Regardless of the communicative objectives journalists and organisational communicators might set, they are more likely to reach them when they find relevant resources, limit the scope of the topic to the objective at hand and take up their own, marketable position in public discourse. All of this can be taught and learned.
In the research and specialised field of Media Linguistics, we analyse human communication as conveyed through the media. The media component implies a technical (mass) communication medium (film, TV, internet, text messages, blogs, etc.). Human communication is to be understood as something private or public, oral or written, personalised or organisational and all stages in between.Our focus is on public communication, which, incidentally, is merging more and more with private communication. The primary objective of our research is to generate knowledge and methods through which the contexts, processes and products of language-based, media-transmitted communication can be documented in their entire complexity and further developed.
Some of the typical research questions we explore are:
- How should contexts for production in (media) organisations be structured to establish conditions for creative, emergent communication solutions?
- Which production processes enable or hinder effective, smooth text production within the value chains of a communication operation?
- Which production strategies lead to convincing products — and what does “convincing” imply for the various stakeholders in public communication?
Our teaching focuses on language use as an interface between cognitive and social (culture-, domain, institution, or organisation-specific) communication practices. Typical areas of interest include connections between text production competence, language use and media impact. For example, factors for successful text production are identified, critically analysed and conveyed so that text production as a practice makes more sense and brings more enjoyment for all involved.
At the consecutive master’s (MA) level, we teach approaches for analysing, organising and managing communication and text production processes.
At the executive master’s level, we teach management approaches, leadership and consulting in the field of text production, for example with regard to the strategic integration of social media in creating a public sphere.
Our research-based consulting addresses problems in communication and media practice and contributes to sustainable improvement in the text production competence of media editorial offices or communications departments. Some of our consulting offerings include writing coaching, training in visual storytelling and organisational development in the implementation of social media.